Valentine’s Day is exactly a week away. If you are a gardener in North Texas, that can mean only one thing: It is time to prune the roses! That is, assuming you have roses left after Rose Rosette Virus spread throughout the land… Myself, I have just a handful left, down from the 100+ antique roses I had just a few short years ago. RRV was brutal in my Denton county garden.
One of the few roses I have remaining is Thomas Affleck, an intense pink rose with abundant hips. This rose was bred at The Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham, Texas, and named after a Texas nurseryman. I have no idea why this rose was spared when all the roses in the same flower bed were hit with RRV. It was the newest rose, not two years in the ground. Perhaps it was protected by the larger plantings around it. Perhaps it will prove to be hardier than the norm. Time will tell as RRV is still abundant in the area.
One long-time rose gardener in North Texas says that he will continue to grow roses, even if he has to treat them as annuals. I admire his perspective and tenacity, as I miss my roses. But I am not yet ready to dive back into roses. Time marches on and so does the garden. I am expanding my herbs, adding in more Texas natives and planting more for the bees and butterflies.
If you are in North Texas and surrounded by RRV, it is wise to practice safe pruning. Don’t prune on an overly windy day. Disinfect your pruners between roses. Immediately bag all rose clippings. Clean up any rose debris around the base of your plants before adding fresh mulch. Remove any affected roses immediately. Do not listen to false reports that RRV can be treated. As much as I wish it could, there is no proven method at this time for saving roses once they are affected.
If you have a gardener and they prune your roses, please do us all a favor: Make them bag the pruned rose clippings! Do not let them drive off your property with the clippings tied down in a trailer bed, where the wind can further spread the mites that carry RRV.
If you are adding roses to your garden this season, please shop wisely. Skip over Knockout roses, which were mass bred and over planted. Shop your local independent nurseries that carry roses from reputable growers. Space your roses a few feet apart so the mites cannot travel from one plant to another.
A midwinter arrangement of greenery, including rose hips from Thomas Affleck and yaupon holly berries:
A Red, Red Rose by Robert Burns